J. Matt Thomas
Matt is an architect, artist, and curator. In the fall of 2013 he had an idea: what if for one weekend, we brought art outside and invited the community to come together to celebrate our historic downtown? Within months The PASEO was born. With the support of a passionate team of artists and creatives, the annual festival has brought thousands to the streets, celebrating cutting edge projection, supersized installations, and provocative performance art against the backdrop of the beautiful town of Taos.
Matt is the founder of Studio Taos, an interdisciplinary design and research firm. A graduate of Columbia University Architecture and Urban Design Program, Matt is determined to practice acts of urban design in the rural Southwest. Ever dedicated to a healthier, stronger and more creative community, Matt is also an organizer of Pecha Kucha Night Taos. He lives in Taos with his husband, dog, and 40 chickens.
Development Director, Festival Manager
Rita O’Connell is a performer, writer, and producer of things who has been kicking around Taos since 2007. Rita holds an MA in Public Advocacy and Activism from the National University of Ireland, Galway. She works with nonprofits and individuals to advance creative, grassroots changemaking efforts, and she writes a lot of grants. A co-founder of KNCE 93.5FM, LiveTaos.com, and Curling Iron Productions, she believes deeply in the power of the creative community here in Taos.
Jana Greiner is a practicing installation artist who has been living in Taos for the past two decades. She makes art from fabric, clay, paper, yarn, mud, wood, sound, video, movement, recycled materials, found objects, heartbreak, fear and old toys in order to maintain her sanity.
Board of Directors
Elizabeth Crittenden Palacios
Elizabeth has dedicated more than 30 years of service to the nonprofit sector. Prior to joining the Board of Paseo she was the CEO of the Taos Community Foundation, developing the organization as a resource for philanthropy; building community partnerships; and grant-making programs which have demonstrable impact in community.
She was Executive Director of the Santa Fe Community College Intercultural Community Leadership Institute, working to build responsive culturally appropriate programs throughout the different sectors of community. As trained high ropes course facilitator she understands the importance the connectivity of experience and learning. She is the former Marketing and Interim Director for the Santa Fe Small Business Development and statewide trainer for NM Small Business Development Center. She has extensive experience in the development of small businesses and micro enterprise internationally and throughout northern New Mexico.
Joleen is a co-director and college counselor at the Bridges Project for Education where she works with first-generation to college students and families through the college admissions and financial aid process. Prior to her time at Bridges, Joleen was the Executive Director and founder of Evolving Creative Opportunities Arts Center, a community based arts center for youth in Taos, NM. She has worked in the non-profit sector for nearly twenty years, mainly in the areas of youth development and the arts. She believes in art as a tool for healing historical trauma in communities and as an agent for social change.
Lili Rusing is a development consultant specializing in funding for the arts and humanities, with particular expertise in grant strategy and writing. Rusing has more than a decade of experience fundraising for the country’s leading art and culture organizations, where she has secured more than $20 million in funding from foundations, government agencies, corporations, and individuals. Current and recent clients include the Guggenheim Museum, the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami, the International Center of Photography, the Jewish Museum, the New York Public Library, and Creative Time, among others. Rusing holds an M.S. in Fundraising Management from Columbia University and a B.A. in Art History from Northern Arizona University.
Marty has spent his career in the world of not-for-profit arts; specifically in theater and dance. He has been an actor, dancer, director and producer. He holds a Ph.D. in Anglo-Irish literature from University College Dublin. An enthusiastic member of the Pilates and Tango communities, Marty is always looking for new opportunities that Taos has to offer.
Enrico is a multimedia developer for The University of New Mexico branch in Taos, NM. His work has supported several nonprofits and community endeavors. His degree in Fine Art has lead him into collaborations that include CineMAS, the Southwest Gay & Lesbian Film Festival (Way Out West Film Fest), The Navajo Education Technology Consortium, ARTS Lab, Dome Fest, True Kids 1, and Taos Pride. He is always thrilled to collaborate in ways that bring communities together through art, technology, and shared stories.
Amber Vasquez an Albuquerque native, Amber was a professional modern dancer for 10 years with internationally known dance companies. Amber has been running her own dance school since 2005 and created an integrative arts program for school children entitled “Dance and Learn” teaching school standards though dance and music. Currently Amber is director of DanceWorx a semi professional dance performance group based in Taos, New Mexico and acts as the early childhood program coordinator for Twirl Play and Discovery space creating play based early literacy programs that integrate dance, theater and art. Amber is an advid promoter of the arts in Taos and she sits on the board of directors for the Academy of Performing Arts, The advisory board for UNM Kids Campus and is a founding member of the board of ArtSoul. She is excited to be part of The Paseo board. And spends the rest of her free time skiing with and enjoying her family.
Nathaniel Evans was born and raised in Taos, NM. He has been active in education after receiving a BS in Biology from Antioch College in Ohio. After receiving his degree, he was eager to come back to Taos and serve his community. In 2004, Nathaniel began teaching 7th and 8th grade math and science at Taos Charter School, and he became actively involved in the community. In 2016 he was elected to a four year term on the Taos Town Council and was re-elected in 2020.
Nathaniel believes that we need to continue to come together to improve our diverse community in as many ways as we can. We need to focus on providing opportunities for our youth and making Taos a more livable place by providing exposure to new ideas and self exploration through STEAM. He welcomes and needs the community’s input, advice and participation and knows firsthand that we are a strong, diverse community. We need to put aside our differences and unify for the betterment of the generations to come. Art is a critical aspect of keeping Taos a resilient community. Nathaniel is honored to serve as one the board members of PASEO.
Sarah Stolar (b. 1974, Chicago, IL) is an interdisciplinary artist who lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Working from a vast technical perspective, the breadth of her work includes painting, drawing, multi-media installation, film, video, and performance art. Rooted in a 25-year investigation of the female psychological narrative, common threads in her work include coming of age, loss of innocence, sexuality, beauty, power, death, spirituality, and identity. Sarah is the daughter of artist and educator Merlene Schain, and in the family lineage of 19th-century German painter Adolph von Menzel and Rookwood Pottery master potter John von Menzel of the American Arts and Crafts Movement. She grew up in her mother’s art studio and award-winning art school Schain Studios in Cincinnati, OH, received a BFA in Painting from the Art Academy of Cincinnati, and an MFA in New Genres from the San Francisco Art Institute. Sarah’s visual art, performance, and collaborative work have exhibited across the United States and in France, Argentina, Brazil, Spain, Germany, Austria, Finland, Italy, and Cuba with solo exhibitions at the New Mexico Museum of Art, Harwood Museum of Art, and BGMoCA in Montevideo, Uruguay as well as awards and honors from international film festivals, et al. She has been featured in multiple publications and podcasts including Yale University Radio Archive, Fifty Feminist States, The Nation Magazine, and Hyperallergic. A committed educator for over fifteen years, Sarah Stolar serves on several boards and academic committees, and is currently the Chair of the Department of Fine Arts and Digital Media at the University of New Mexico – Taos.
Agnes Chavez is an artist/educator and founding member of The PASEO Festival. In 2014 she founded the STEMarts LAB a Research and Innovation project that applies the latest arts, science and technological innovations to youth programming. She created and directs the STEMarts@PASEO Youth Program for the festival. As an artist she explores our relationship with art, science, technology and nature as a process and tool for social change. Her work focuses on data visualization, light, sound and space. As a curriculum developer she has created the STEMarts Curriculum Tool an online hybrid platform that complements real world science and art festivals with STEAM activities and resources built around the work of the artist. She is the developer of the SUBE multisensory language curriculum for teaching Spanish and English to kids through art, music and games now in its 24th year.
Janet Webb has lived in three places in her lifetime: Los Angeles, New York City, and Taos, New Mexico. The latter has been her home since 1973. Though her college education culminated with a degree in drawing and painting, she has found her most rewarding accomplishment to be keeping a business running in Taos since 1982. Webb Design Inc is a design and marketing business focused on the tourism industry and fine arts arena. Janet’s other community involvements include SOMOS, the literary society of Taos, and Harwood Museum of Art.
Morten Nilssen moved to Taos in 1981 and worked in construction before establishing Moondance Recording Studio. He was employed by the Taos Art Association for twelve years in the eighties and nineties. In 1994 he was hired as technical director for the Taos Talking Picture Festival and was later executive director for Taos Talking Pictures. He is currently the executive director at Taos Youth Music School and holds the position of president of the board of directors of the Nina Elizabeth Nilssen Scholarship Fund. Nilssen was the first Board Chair of The Paseo Project, serving 2017-2018.
Liz Neely is a passionate advocate for how creativity and ‘making’ empower and inspire our lives giving us a lifelong learning mindset fueled by curiosity. As an established museum professional, she’s focused on designing engaging experiences for visitors onsite and online. Liz was a founding PASEO Team member and served on the founding board as Vice President from 2017-2018. Liz is currently the Curator of Digital Experience at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico and has held positions at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Harwood Museum of Art and the American Alliance of Museums. She received her MBA from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management.
CHiKA is a Japanese-born, New York-based New Media Artist, and Educator.
Her work creates what she describes as the symphony of light: creating minimalist geometric shapes and visuals that explore dark space while inviting people to reinvent themselves through the relationship between objects and visual images. Light and sound are the main elements she uses in her installations, which are ultimately a visual performance that experiments with improvisational communication and immediate interaction with the audience in real time. Her work has shown in numerous international venues and festivals, including Metropolitan Museum, the American Museum of Natural History, the Museum of Art and Design, NY Hall of Science, Eyebeam, Harvestworks, the Hammer Museum, San Francisco Art Institute, Centre d’Art Contemporain, Museo Regional de Guadalajara, Matadero Madrid, and International Biennial Contemporary Art ULA-2010, Mapping Festival, Mutek, Dumbo Art Festival and among others.
Erin Elder is an independent curator of contemporary art guided by interests in land use, experimental collaboration, and non-traditional modes of expression. Her research-driven projects take highly participatory forms, working with a broad definition of art to bring audiences into a direct experience of particular places. Underscoring Erin’s work is a commitment to the creative process and direct support for artists. From 2009 – 2013, she cooperatively founded and directed PLAND, an off-the-grid residency program near Tres Piedras, NM. From 2012 – 2015, she was the Visual Arts Director at the Center for Contemporary Arts in Santa Fe, where she curated 50+ exhibitions and many public programs. Under her direction, the program worked directly with artists on exhibitions of new work, designed specifically for the unique gallery spaces at CCA. With an MA in Curatorial Practice from California College of the Arts and 15 years of experience in the art world, Erin operates Gibbous, a consulting service that supports committed artists at pivotal moments in their careers.
Megan Jacobs is an Associate Professor in the Honors College at the University of New Mexico. Her research explores the cultural and creative applications of computational imaging, with a specific focus on photogrammetry. Additionally, her artwork work explores the delicate relationship between our existence as material and concept. The materials that she works with: photographs, time-based media, glass, and ice, function metaphorically to illustrate the ambiguity of the body as well as the mutability of memory and identity. Megan is the Vice-Chair of the Society for Photographic Education-Southwest Region.
Anita McKeown (FRSA, BA, MA) is an itinerant interdisciplinary artist, curator and researcher interested in Creative Placemaking and Open Source Culture and Technology. Previously, Director of the CATALYST initiative at SMARTlab,UCD, she is currently focusing on completion of her PhD, while working on independent live and situated art projects, working as Art Services Unincorporated (ASU).
Marianna Amster and Frank Ragano
Mariannah Amster and Frank Ragano are Co-Executive/Artistic Directors of Parallel Studios which produces CURRENTS: Santa Fe International New Media Festival. Currents is an annual, citywide event which takes place for three weeks every June. Since 2002 Parallel Studios has brought together the work of established, unrecognized and emerging New Media artists, from New Mexico, the US and the world, for events showcasing interactive and fine art video installations, multimedia performances and web-based art forms.
Lucy R. Lippard
Lucy R. Lippard is a writer, curator, and activist who has spent a “lifetime in and on the edge of the arts”. Author of 23 books on contemporary art, her most recent being: Undermining: A Wild RIde Through Land Use, Politics, and Art in the Changing West. Her commitment to conceptual, ephemeral, and activist work now spans five decades, two of which have been spent in a small New Mexican village.
David Van Der Leer
David van der Leer, Principal of DVDL Design Decisions, is a consultant, curator, educator, moderator, researcher, strategist, and writer. David’s passion is reinventing the institutions of yesterday—and dreaming up the most inspirational institutions of tomorrow—through excellent architecture and interdisciplinary programs.
David founded DVDL Design Decisions in 2018 after having worked and consulted with institutions, government agencies, corporations, and individuals for 15 years. Creative, intelligent, intuitive, and forward-looking, David has extensive experience in bringing together interdisciplinary teams to create successful design projects.
David has created, chaired, and led nearly 30 design competitions, and he has commissioned numerous design and art projects. He enjoys rethinking conventional design competition and commissioning processes, and actively promotes new practices in events like the Design Competition Conference he developed and co-chaired at Harvard University in 2015.
Born and raised in The Netherlands, David is a graduate of Erasmus University Rotterdam, and of the High Impact Leadership program at Columbia University’s Business School.
Ann Landi has been a contributing editor of ARTnews for nearly 20 years and writes on art several times a year for The Wall Street Journal. She is also the author of The Schirmer Encyclopedia of Art, and holds degrees in art history from Princeton and Columbia. Currently, Ann is focused on her website, Vasari21, which presents artists with information about building a life as a professional artist.
Josh Comfort, a PASEO advisor for many years, passed away in 2021. A registered Architect and Arts Advocate based in Denver who visited Taos and owned properties here since 2000, Josh is a six year participant in Denver’s Biennial of the Americas, a hemispheric celebration of the Arts. He has also served for 5 years on Denver’s Commission for Cultural Affairs and it’s Public Art Committee, overseeing Public Art and implementation of the City’s cultural plan, Imagine2020. We are grateful for all of his support.